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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Flickr Los Angeles, HDR Imaging

Poking around the internet, I came across the most amazing set of photographs by area photographer Neil Armstrong. Using a tripod and multiple exposures combined to make a single image, his photography is absolutely amazing. Above: the Angles Flight funicular, Bunker Hill, downtown Los Angeles.

Looking south at the downtown Los Angeles skyline from the Department of Water and Power building. I pulled together a "top ten" group of his photos. The entire collection can be found here. Here's the next eight: 

LA Live, adjacent to Staples Center. I've photographed most of the same places, but these photographs take it all to a completely different level. 

Rotunda of the Los Angeles Central Library

Metro Subway Station. These are all HDR (High Dynamic Range) images, which involves using a tripod to take take multiple exposures and combining them into a single image. A friend from church showed me how he takes HDR images using his iPhone, so I guess it's more common than I expected (although these photographs were all taken with much higher end SLR camera). 

Pedestrians at the corner of 1st and Grand, with the Walt Disney Concert Hall in the background.

Hollywood as viewed from Yamashiro Restaurant, with a tilt-shift effect. The office towers of downtown Los Angeles, eight miles away, are visible in the distance. 

Hollywood and Highland, outside the Kodak Theater. 

Chris Burden's Urban Light at LACMA at Wilshire and Fairfax.

Taken from the 14th floor of the abandoned Commercial Exchange building on the corner of 8th and Olive, Downtown Los Angeles. The wet pavement and colors certainly give it a "Dark Knight" feel.  

Outstanding work, both technically and artistically. I'd love to eventually approach this same caliber, although I'm not sure I'm willing to invest the money or time to actually make it happen. Meanwhile, I appreciate these images being on the web for myself and others to enjoy. 

Here's a link to the complete photostream on Flickr. 


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Vintage Los Angeles - Facebook Group highlights

A friend and fellow UCLA alumni shared about the Facebook Group "Vintage Los Angeles". If you're on Facebook, I'd recommend taking a peek at some of the photos at "Vintage Los Angeles."

Here are a few "highlight" photos I pulled off the site:

An amazing early color shot of Hollywood. No idea what year this was taken. Judging by the cars, maybe mid 1920's? Someone commented "is this real life 1920's - or a movie set designed to look like it?" This being Los Angeles, I guess it could be either one. I love how the color photo makes the whole scene look so, well, real. 

Westwood Village 1941. Many of the historic buildings in the the Village are still there. 

 Another shot of Westwood, 1941. Stop signs vs. stop lights with a Bank of America branch in the distinctive domed building at the corner of Westwood Blvd and Kinross. 

Westwood Village, 1950's. It certainly was more "filled in" with stop lights and Ralphs grocery store on the corner of Westwood Blvd and Lindbrook. 

Grauman's Chinese Theater, 1953 (I cheated and looked up what year "The Robe" was in theaters). Love the Pacific Electric Streetcar rolling down Hollywood Blvd. Looks like something out of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" - except that this was the real deal. 

The Brown Derby restaurant, 1954. There were actually four Brown Derby restaurants in Los Angeles: Wilshire Blvd (pictured above, located across the street from the Ambassador Hotel), Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Los Feliz.

Broadway Avenue, downtown Los Angeles, 1959. Before WWII, Broadway was the commercial and entertainment center in Los Angeles. Here's a link to what Broadway looks like today. 

"Tail of the Pup" hotdog stand. date unknown. Built in 1946, it's one of best examples of mimetic architecture in Los Angeles. The stand was closed in 2005 and is looking for a suitable place to re-locate, possibly West Hollywood. 

In the early 1960's, Third Street in Santa Monica was just that: a street. In 1965, the city closed Third Street to create the early and original "Santa Monica Mall." 

Here's a photo of the original outdoor mall, looking south east from the corner of Wilshire Blvd. By the mid-1970's the mall had fallen on hard times, and in 1989 was transformed into the hugely successful "Third Street Promenade." 

Not everything "back in the day" was necessarily good. One thing that was definitely NOT better in the past was air quality. Smog in the 1960's and early 1970's was absolutely TERRIBLE, as this photo from 1964 attests. Ironically, while traffic has gotten much worse, the air quality (thanks to the efforts of the AQMD) has gotten much better.

A final shot of Westwood Village, 1980. I'm old enough to remember the Westwood Village Art Shows - does that make me "vintage"? Maybe. I actually have a painting hanging in my home that my parents bought at one of these art shows. 

I'm curious what Los Angeles will look like 50-80 years from now.

More photos can be found on the Facebook group "Vintage Los Angeles."

© 2011


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Celebrating June Gloom: Temescal Canyon Ridge

Hey everyone! It's June! You know what that means: time to celebrate JUNE GLOOM! 

June Gloom is the terms used locally to describe the thick coastal fog that Los Angeles and much of coastal Southern California experiences in the Spring and early summer months. When we lived in Los Angeles, hiking locally in the Santa Monica Mountains was one way to actually enjoy June Gloom. 
A very accessible trail is the Temescal Ridge trail, part of Topanga State Park. The trailhead is located at the top of the Palisades Highlands in Pacific Palisades. 

Homes, mountains, fog: the photo above is looking east with Topanga Canyon in the distance. The trailhead is a few steps away from this spot. I've blogged about this trail several times before - each time it's different
Heading north along the trail, the fog was literally pouring over the adjacent ridges. 
It was amazing to watch. Above is the top of the Paseo Miramar ridge trail. Here's a link to some similar sunrise photos, taken a couple of years ago from the Paseo Miramar trail. 
In a matter of minutes the entire ridge was engulfed in a thick blanket of fog.
The fog allowed for some interesting photos, including the large tree several miles to the east on the western ridge of Mandeville Canyon. Normally, this tree would be completely blended in to the rest of the terrain: it's visible only because of the contrasting white fog.
Same tree - gives you an idea how far away it was. These mountains, the Santa Monicas, run from Griffith Park in the east all the way to Point Mugu in the west. They literally cut through the City of Los Angeles, separating the San Fernando Valley from the rest of the city. With the exception of the San Garbriel Mountains (barely visible in the distance), everything else you're looking at lies within the city limits of Los Angeles
Another view, same tree (or trees), with the fog morning for some interesting patterns. I've commented previously that the coastal fog is a continual reminder of how brief and temporal our own lives are. Seventy, or - if we're lucky - eighty, years is a blink in light of eternity. 

As a Christian, I've found that the creation - in all it's beauty, complexity, and design - points to a Creator. And, yes, I realize this perspective isn't limited to Christianity. 
Looking back east towards Topanga Canyon. The ridge that was covered in fog a few minutes earlier was once again visible.
Another view: the homes along the ridge on on the western edge of Topanga Canyon. 
Looking into upper Temescal Canyon as the fog made it's way up the canyon . . . 

. . . making for some interesting patterns. 
Swirling around, looking almost like a dragon . . . 
. . . or a hook . . .
. . . and a minute later, it was gone.  
A few last wisps of fog in the upper-most reaches of Temescal Canyon.
Thinking a bit more about our brief stint on earth, French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Blaise Pascal comes to mind. Pascal - who only lived to age 39 - used logic and mathematics to argue for the existence of God in what's commonly known as "Pascal's Wager."

A UCLA professor summarized Pascal's Wager on her website: "If God does not exist, one will lose nothing by believing in him, while if he does exist, one will lose everything by not believing." Or, the bumper sticker sticker version: "If you live as if there is no God, you better be right."

While mathematics was probably my weakest subject in college, Pascal's Wager certainly makes a strong argument to at least consider the implications of Christianity. And hiking along Temescal Ridge, I found the beauty of what I was experiencing an equally compelling argument to consider if there is something more than our seventy or so years on earth. 
A final photo with the same fog now creeping up towards the top of the Palisades Highlands. A few minutes later I was in my car, having gotten some exercise, nice photos, and - thanks to Pascal and the local weather patterns - something significant to reflect on. 
The trailhead, located just past the corner of Via Las Palmas and Via La Costa in Pacific Palisades. While Via Las Palmas might look like a gated community, it is most assuredly a public road. Continue another 100 yards on Via Las Palmas past Via La Costa, and there is a public parking lot (with restrooms) on the left. 

© 2011

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"If You See Honey ..."

Over the years, we've been extremely fortunate to have had friends who could sign us in to Disneyland once a year. If you haven't been recently and want to see both Disneyland and the adjacent "California Adventure" park, a single day adult pass is over $100.  After parking and food, our family of four could be looking at $500 for a one day visit. 

The folks running the show at Disneyland aren't stupid. Over the past ten years, they're aggressively marketed various types of annual passes. There are now close to one million annual pass holders, most of whom live in greater Los Angeles. 

On one hand, it's a great deal. Sort of. Rather than paying $100 for a single visit, you can visit multiple times a year for "only" $184. (that's the cheapest annual pass - the prices go up, way up, from there).

Yet, to me, it feels like an "all-you-can-eat dessert bar." What if we don't want to take our kids to "the happiest place on earth" over and over and over and over . . . ? What if, like Halloween candy, we want to limit their "Disneyification" to just once a year? 

With my sister on our family's "once a year" day at Disneyland - circa 1975

Referring to television, the great theologian Willie Wonka said, "I suppose TV is OK, in moderate doses." I kind of feel the same way about an amusement park - any amusement park. Once a year is fine. After that - there's a big world out there, and better ways for us to spend time with our kids. 

"If you see honey, eat just enough - too much of it and you'll vomit" wrote King Solomon.

Honestly, Disneyland feels like "honey" - yummy, but ultimately junk food. 

Again, we are VERY thankful for having a couple of friends who could sign us in. Not only for allowing us to make some neat family memories . . . 

     photo credit:

. . . but also keeping us from even considering going more than once a year and getting stuck in what can actually start to feel like a "small world." 

.© 2011